No. 1 Connecticut tops No. 3 UNC

Published 1:40 am Tuesday, January 22, 2008

By By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Sports Writer
STORRS, Conn. — Renee Montgomery scored 26 points and top-ranked Connecticut stayed unbeaten by rallying to beat No. 3 North Carolina 82-71 on Monday night.
Maya Moore added 19 points and Tina Charles had 15 points and matched her career-high with 19 rebounds for Connecticut (18-0).
The game featured two of the highest scoring offenses in the country with both teams averaging over 85 points and they didn’t disappoint. Only four teams had scored over 50 points this season against UConn. North Carolina passed that mark early in the second half.
Both teams saw the game as a litmus test to see where they stood midway through the regular season. The Tar Heels’ only loss had been to then-No. 1 Tennessee. North Carolina had reeled off eight straight victories since that defeat on Dec. 2. Connecticut hadn’t played a top-10 opponent since Thanksgiving weekend.
Latoya Pringle scored 20 points to lead North Carolina (17-2). Heather Claytor and Jessica Breland each added 12 for the Tar Heels.
UConn looked disoriented in the first half as North Carolina was able to build an 11-point lead.
The second half was a different story. The Huskies asserted themselves, outscoring North Carolina 49-27.
UConn started the second half with a 15-3 run to take its first lead of the game on Montgomery’s jumper at 48-47. The teams exchanged scoring spurts after that with UConn building a 65-59 advantage with 8:40 left before North Carolina scored 10 straight points.
The Huskies answered right back with a 9-0 run to take a 74-69 lead on Moore’s 3-pointer with 3:38 left. Pringle cut the deficit to three with a layup at 3:27, but it was the last basket North Carolina would score.
Connecticut, which leads the country in field goal percentage at 51 percent, had its worst shooting game of the season. With Mel Thomas, Kalana Greene and Brittany Hunter out with injuries, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma didn’t have his usual depth. Thomas and Greene are out for the season with torn anterior cruciate ligaments. Hunter missed her third straight game because of soreness in her surgically repaired knee.
The first half featured back and forth action. North Carolina scored the first eight points before Moore finally put UConn on the board with a layup 2:30 minutes into the game. The Tar Heels held a 28-24 lead midway through the first half before they closed with a 16-9 spurt to take a 44-33 lead at the break.
The young Tar Heels, who were averaging a nation’s best 90.4 points coming into the game, have a tough schedule ahead. They host No. 4 Maryland on Saturday.
This was the second game for Connecticut without Thomas, who tore her ACL in a victory over Syracuse on Jan. 15. Thomas received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd before Monday night’s game when she was given a ball commemorating her 1,000th point that she scored on Dec. 5 against Virginia.
Montgomery became the 30th player in school history to score 1,000 points when she hit a 3-pointer early in the first half.
North Carolina is 5-3 all-time against Connecticut. Since the Huskies won their first national championship in 1995, the Tar Heels are the only team with a winning record against Connecticut.